The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't exactly on the precipice of winning NBA titles, as general manager Sam Presti continues to stockpile young, talented stars with his bevy of first-round draft picks. But the long-term future does look bright.
The backcourt of leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and nightly triple-double threat Josh Giddey showcased much promise last year, and they are surrounded by other talents including Lu Dort and Aleksej Pokusevski.
However, the Thunder now have one of the most exciting players in all of basketball after adding Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
The Gonzaga product dominated summer league play on both ends and showed tremendous potential at this level. He could end up being the catalyst that leads OKC out of the bottom tier of the NBA standings.
For now, the pressure isn't on the Thunder to make the playoffs this year. They are still in rebuilding mode with a young group still developing together that also includes three other 2022 draft picks in Jalen Williams, Peyton Watson and Jaylin Williams.
We'll see what the future holds, but for now, here's a look at the 2022-23 Thunder schedule alongside some matchup notes and season predictions.
2022-23 Thunder Schedule Details
Season Opener: Oct. 19 at Minnesota Timberwolves
Championship Odds: 500-1 (FanDuel)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Orlando Magic (First Game: Nov. 1)
The Thunder are among a group of young, rebuilding teams stockpiling potential All-Star talent with the hopes of contending in the not-too-distant future.
One of those other teams is the Orlando Magic, which took Duke forward Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
They also have a host of other potential stars, including Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner.
It will be interesting to see Banchero vs. Holmgren, as well as the rest of the talented crews, do battle. Neither team is positioned to win much this year, but the entertainment factor will be high for both squads.
Houston Rockets (First Game: Nov. 26)
The Thunder and Rockets have adopted similar rebuilding tactics, with the hopes of grabbing a ton of first-round picks, adding lottery-level talent and letting the groups develop over time.
Houston is building around a young core that includes second-year wings Jalen Green and Josh Christopher, rookie forwards Jabari Smith and Tari Eason and center Alperun Sengun. The Rockets feature a young, exciting crew, and their long-term prospects are high.
The Thunder and Rockets could well be major rivals later in the decade as they compete for Western Conference positioning, much like when the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-led Thunder and the James Harden-guided Rockets battled in the 2010s.
It's a new era in Houston and OKC, though, and their battles this year could foreshadow those with more on the line down the road.
The Western Conference is simply too loaded for OKC to make much of a dent in this year's standings. Nine of its 15 teams finished .500 or better last year, and it's hard to make a case for any of them to see a big slide down outside the now-rebuilding Utah Jazz.
Some of the losing teams should make steps forward, including the Sacramento Kings (adding potential superstar rookie Keegan Murray), Portland Trail Blazers (adding Jerami Grant, welcoming back Damian Lillard) and Los Angeles Lakers (welcoming back Anthony Davis).
That leaves a trio of potential teams fighting to get out of the West basement in the San Antonio Spurs, Rockets and Thunder, although it appears OKC might have the biggest leg up with a potential superstar looming in Holmgren.
Ultimately, it's hard to envision the Thunder even threatening much for the play-in tournament, but they could be in the playoff mix as early as 2024 given their tremendous talent.
Record Prediction: 28-54 (No. 13 in West)
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